From the Gutter
by Jane Rosenberg LaForge
Everyone’s dead now, so why don’t I
spill it: in high school my boyfriend
got some other girl pregnant. I wasn’t
as surprised as I was upset, picturing
the inciting act like meat marinating
in something fake, maybe liquid smoke,
or having griller lines painted on it
for a menu, to suggest the rustic.
Her teeth were huge, crooked, and
blemished, by her lip gloss, maybe
not enough milk, as if they were pieces
of dry ice, lifted from their fog,
the corporeal equivalent of moth balls,
fuming at the back of a forbidden closet.
We’d go in there when we were kids,
my sister and I, at our grandmother’s,
to run our hands through her minks
and leopards. They were at least as
satisfying as the plunge our feet took
into the gutter as we walked home,
having forgot our sandals. Our toes
had to curl to a certain degree, against
the slimy bottom, so we wouldn’t slip
and have to breathe in the concrete. I imagined
her toes had to do the same, atop a
bare mattress or the stirrups’ sanitary
plastic coverlets. You don’t ever want
any limb to grow cold, any appendage.
Because then you can’t run away,
when you were caught walking through
the gray water, and your father is
handing down the punishments.
* * * * *
Jane Rosenberg LaForge writes poetry, fiction, and occasional essays in New York. Her third full-length poetry collection is Medusa's Daughter from Animal Heart Press in February 2021. Her second novel is Sisterhood of the Infamous New Meridian Arts, also in February 2021. Her first novel, The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War (Amberjack Publishing), was a finalist in two categories in the 2019 Eric Hoffer Awards. Her poetry has recently or will appear in 8Poems, Thorn literary magazine, Feral, Cease, Cows, and Fevers of the Mind.